Yellow Journalism To Blame For Pot Prohibition?
Wow! You know there’s something to this story when it’s the journalists themselves espousing it.
via The Philadelphia Weekly
Bad journalism is to blame for marijuana prohibition. … The truth is, most people who use drugs — both legal and illegal — do so responsibly and without any noticeable detrimental effect. [Yet,] since the 1980s, drug policy — with the help of the press — has demonized drug users.
… Scientific studies are frequently reported in the media without the reporter having read more than a press release, and without any regard to sample size.
… In other cases, the news media ignore important drug–related stories — such as the federal government listing cannabis as Schedule I, alongside heroin and LSD; or that the past two presidential administrations have arrested patients authorized by states to use medical marijuana.
… It’s sad how long people have been pointing out this bad journalism, and how little anything seems to change.
Back in March I wrote an essay for Alternet.org dissecting how the mainstream media falsely reported that inhaling cannabis poses a greater cancer risk than smoking tobacco — based on a study that concluded the opposite result. More recently, I lectured on this topic before attendees at the Fifth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. It’s a subject worth revisiting.
So why does the media consistently ‘get the story wrong’ when it comes to pot? While I don’t believe there’s any grand conspiracy going on, I do believe that journalists in general engage in several bad habits that negatively skew their cannabis coverage.
First, beat writers too often base their pot-related health and science stories on press releases rather than actual data.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, mainstream news stories about pot seldom make references to previously published research (research that typically disproves the crux of the media’s latest scare story) or place new data in context.
Writing in the journal Science nearly 40 years ago, New York state university sociologist Erich Goode aptly observed: “[T]ests and experiments purporting to demonstrate the ravages of marijuana consumption receive enormous attention from the media, and their findings become accepted as fact by the public. But when careful refutations of such research are published, or when latter findings contradict the original pathological findings, they tend to be ignored or dismissed.”
How little has changed.
May 15, 2008